How Noise Affects Communication 

How Noise Affects Communication
February 07, 2022

No one wants to ask someone to repeat themselves for the fourth time in a row when chatting in a noisy room or strain to hear a phone call over the background noise on the other end. Noise can have a significant impact on the way we communicate with one another. Whether it’s in an office or industrial workplace or at home, noise can prevent us from getting our message across effectively to those around us. Find out exactly how noise affects communication, the different types of noise that affect communication, and how to reduce noise to improve communication.

What Is Communication Noise?

Communication noise can be defined as any barrier preventing an effective communication process. When a form of noise disrupts the communication process from the sender to the receiver, it is considered communication noise.

The noise might distract the receiver, causing them not to hear the sender’s message properly. Or it might distract the sender, making it difficult for them to communicate the message effectively. Either way, noise becomes a barrier to communication. Communication noise can be found in almost all settings and contexts, including face-to-face, groups and organizational settings. Studies have shown that in organizational settings specifically, businesses have lost billions of dollars because of communication noise.

Types of Noise Which Can Affect Communication

Noise that affects communication can be caused by various sources can also cause it. How noise is a barrier to communication depends on the specific type of noise. Here are some of the different types of noise that can impact effective communication.

Physical Noise

Any disturbance or interference that is coming from an external source is considered a form of physical noise. In other words, it can be anything causing a noisy environment in communication. Examples of physical noise can include static on a call, the noise of an airplane flying over the building and people talking during a meeting or presentation, among many others. Physical noise can also be non-auditory. For instance, someone making a gesture and distracting you might cause you not to receive the message. This is visual noise, another form of physical noise.

Physiological Noise

Physiological noise occurs when a sensation within your body prevents you from listening to a message. You might not listen well because you are feeling exhausted or hungry, for example. This prevents you from being able to focus and take in the information. Physiological noise is any physiological issue or health state that interferes with you paying attention to the message being communicated to you.

Physiological Noise

Cultural Noise

People can belong to many different cultures or cultural groups. Some of these include nationality, region, social position, gender, age and careers. Because every individual is a member of unique cultural groups, their values, beliefs, attitudes and expectations also differ. This can often lead to cultural noise as the messenger might not communicate the message in the best way for the receiver to understand it due to cultural differences.

Psychological Noise

Psychological noise includes distractions within the listener’s own mind. You know the voice in your head? It could be talking over the person you’re speaking to. You might also be thinking about other things — such as what you’re having for dinner or how you’ll deal with a sticky situation at work — that prevent you from listening attentively.

Psychological noise can also stem from differences between individuals’ personal views, attitudes, assumptions and biases. Because people see and understand the world in different ways, they might misinterpret the language used, content, perceived beliefs or attitude of the messenger during communication. As a result, the receiver might not understand the message the way it was intended to be communicated.

Semantic Noise

Semantic noise refers to miscommunication as a result of the wrong choice of words or language used. When the communicator’s language is not clear or simple enough to understand, it can interfere with the audience’s ability to receive the intended message effectively. An example of semantic noise is someone using high-level professional terms when the audience is at a beginner level. Other examples include grammatical errors, illogical sentence structures and abstract concepts without explanations. Any of these semantic issues can cause the listener to lose focus and miss the message being communicated.

Technical Noise

Technical noise is anything technical that prevents the audience from hearing, receiving and understanding a message clearly. This can include any technical issues like slow connectivity, down servers, or issues with technical equipment like web cameras or microphones.

Organizational Noise

Organizational noise happens when a business organization has a structure that impedes certain communication channels. In some organizations, these communication channels are structured to ensure team members know exactly which members they should be communicating with. However, when this is not clearly outlined and you are not aware of or you disregard the correct communication channels in your organization, the message can get lost. And this is when organizational noise occurs.

How to Overcome Communication Barriers

Because of its ability to disrupt or obscure a message, noise tends to be one of the most common communication barriers. To overcome noise barriers, you must establish precisely what the source is. Often, this can be the most difficult part as it’s not always clear where exactly the noise is coming from. But only once the source has been determined can you make a plan to overcome it. Along with the source of the noise, establish the type of noise so you can determine the best way to overcome it.

For example, if it’s physical noise, try to remove as many of the physical distractions as possible. This could mean removing phones from meeting rooms or closing all doors and windows. If the noise is technical, ensure that all technical equipment works properly in advance and have back-ups in place.

The best way to overcome communication barriers and ensure that messages are received and understood clearly is to plan ahead. Eliminate as many of the objects that could possibly cause noise prior to communication. And prepare for any other factors that might pop up or interfere with the message during communication.

Impacts of Communication Noise

Clearly, communication noise can have a profound impact on someone’s ability to hear and understand messages. It can make it difficult to focus and cause people to miss out on important information or instructions. Communication noise can also lead to even more significant social consequences for individuals who struggle with hearing loss.

Not being able to hear what’s being communicated clearly can compromise their safety. In addition, noise can lead to health issues, decrease employee productivity, compromise privacy and confidentiality, prevent children from learning effectively and prevent older adults from participating in social settings.

Learn More About Our Soundproofing Solutions

At Soundproof Cow, we offer a range of different soundproofing and sound-absorbing materials like acoustic panels to help reduce physical, auditory communication noise. Whether it’s for your office or your home, we have the perfect solution to help you ensure effective communication. Check out our selection and get in touch with us today!

Learn More About Our Soundproofing Solutions